WHO GIVETH?

WHO GIVETH?

From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

Who Giveth?

Afather is always making his baby into a little woman. And when she is a woman he turns her back again.

Enid Bagnold

A cozy kitchen may not seem like the most romantic setting for a Christmas Eve proposal, but it didn’t stop me from whispering “Yes” as Tom slipped a diamond ring on my finger.

But when he announced our engagement to my parents, the atmosphere in the living room was not quite as comfortable. After an interminably long silence, my father said, “I suppose she said ‘yes.’” Tom, taken aback, nodded tentatively.

“Well, Tom,” Dad said, “I think you should know I never give anything away cheerfully.”

Although we realized his response had nothing to do with Tom but everything to do with a father’s reluctance to part with his youngest offspring, it was definitely an uncomfortable moment. Mother broke the tension with expressions of joy.

Over the next months, Dad observed our wedding preparations from the sidelines. By May, he was fitted for his wedding attire, apparently reconciled to giving me away.

However, a month later, when our entire wedding party gathered in the kitchen for a late-night snack following the evening rehearsal, Dad was unusually quiet amid the chatter.

“I can’t do it!” he finally burst out.

“Can’t do what?” we all chorused. I caught my breath. Surely he wouldn’t refuse to give me away at the last minute.

At long last, his voice broke the awful silence. “When the minister says, ‘Who giveth this woman?’ I can’t say, ‘I do.’ I think I should say, ‘Her mother and I do.’”

With deep sighs of relief, we assured him that he should say whatever felt right.

Our wedding day dawned bright and sunny. As we waited in the vestry of the old, gray stone church, the clear notes of my sister’s final solo, “O Promise Me,” rang out. When the organist struck the opening chords of the wedding march, I took Dad’s arm. Together we walked down the center aisle.

Step, pause. Step, pause. A photograph of the moment shows me as a radiant bride; Dad was not smiling. All eyes were on us as we approached the altar and my handsome groom.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here . . .” the pastor began. Looking directly at Dad, he posed the question. “Who giveth this woman to be wedded to this man?”

Dad was ready. He never missed a beat.

In clear, measured tones, he replied, “Her mother.”

With that, he placed my hand in Tom’s, turned and took his place beside my astonished mother in the front pew.

Just as he’d vowed from the beginning, Dad didn’t give me away cheerfully. Or—for that matter—at all!

S. Maitland Schrecengost

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